Leader of Opposition and President of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) Advocate Duma Boko oozes with confidence when he declares that the coalition will assume state power after 2019 general elections due in October.
In fact, Boko announced on Tuesday that the UDC has assembled a Transition Team to reconfigure the public service to enhance governance, to promote separation of powers where cabinet ministers will not be members of parliament. Dismissing the hybrid system used by Botswana as nonsensical in comparison to governance systems in UK (Parliamentarism) and US (Presidentialism), Boko said the hybrid system gives too much powers to the president despite that s/he is not elected directly by the voters. “Separation of powers is a fiction in Botswana because cabinet ministers are MPs. We are going to navigate existing legislatation to create an efficient governance system with the primary mandate to improve service delivery to the people,” he said.
According to Boko the BDP government created a problem for itself by adopting a cockeyed approach because of failure to understand rudimentary aspects of the law.
Boko said he has long criticised the decision by the then Minister of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama to allocate a budget for compensation arguing that there was no need for a specific allocation because the law already provides for compensation for any damage or loss of life. “Human Wildlife Conflict has nothing to do with and will never be resolved by imposing a hunting prohibition or lifting it because the problem obtains across the country. For example, in Gamalete there are too many kudus in the area terrorising farmers, destroying their crops. In recognition that human wildlife conflict is a countrywide problem, UDC has put together a team of experts to engage on the issue and devise a durable and longlasting solution in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” thundered Boko.
Boko said in any case Section 4 of the Constitution of Botswana grants citizens the right to defend themselves against any attack. He said if the Constitution grants citizens self defense against fellow citizens, an absolute right, it follows that the same applies to attacks from wild animals. Should the matter come before court the only consideration is if there was imminent danger/ attack, and if someone used reasonable force, he explained. “If the answer is in the affirmitive, self defense argument suffices,” he said.
Safety and security
Boko said the human wildlife conflict has exposed the BDP Government for failing in the mandate to provide security and protect its own people, because it is not only people living in wildlife areas who are in danger. “For that reason, the BDP is going to lose elctions and they must loose,” roared Boko, ever in his theatrics.
He said accusing Khama of taking sides with foreigners is clutching at straws because the hunting ban was first imposed by BDP MPs, in the absence of Khama who never attended Parliament anyway, following extensive consultation with stakeholders. The argument then was that the numbers were dwindling because of indiscrimanate hunting, that is what they told us in Parliament, said Boko. “Now, we are told there has been another consultation with stakeholders, which proposed lifting of the hunting ban. But we know that the hunting ban was lifted long before the purported consultations in some kgotlas.” he elaborated.
“All this is a dishonest narrative propagated to people without information in the president’s honeymoon around the world. We need sustainable solutions to the human wildlife conflict, thats what the UDC is concerned about. The UDC position is that opening up hunting is not panacea to human wildlife conflict,” Boko hit out.
Boko dismissed the pending court case where Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) isare challenging expulsion from and the validity of the UDC decisions as total nonsense. Clearly in reference to BMD president, Sidney Pilane, who is leading the litigation against UDC, Boko said; “The hitman at the front will be embarassed as he always does. Unlike those who change names when they go to SA, my name has and will always be Duma Gideon Boko. He can go to the anals of Harvard Year Book 1995 and find those who know me describe me there as an arrogant, laid back African intellectual. When we meet in court I will tell him brother, my name does not change and has never changed. I do not flee from challenges, I run to them. UDC will go to elections united, focussed and strong,” said Boko, now fully in his element.
Boko said the UDC does not hate any politician, let alone the BMD. “We have never hated them. Even the BDP we have never been a part of them. When they splintered and dispersed in all directions we welcomed them. We gave them a platform to express themselves. Even those we expelled from the UDC, we do not hate them.
Procedure dictates to us to conduct ourselves in a certain manner, and the UDC has been consistent in our principles,” he said, insisting that their enemy number one is the ruling party.
“It is the BDP we are in a boxing ring with, not individuals, let alone those outside power.
Our focus is to defeat the BDP and its leader. He is the person I am wrestling. That’s where my focus is, to remove the BDP from government. Why should I waste my time with periperal issues,” he retorted.
Boko said UDC has capable leaders, some of the finest talents in the country. He gave the example of the recent debate of manifestos saying UDC Vice president embarassed the Professor of African Languages that the BDP had deployed. ” Part of the reason the BDP is a failure is because they deploy the wrong personnel. We pick the best and deploy accordingly to deliver. Bring an honorary doctor to me and I will devour that doctorate and spit it back to those who gave it to him,” chuckled Boko.
Khama vs Masisi
“Don’t be hoowinked into believing that there is any instability in Botswana. That is just an imagination of the current president because he is clueless about how to govern the country due to his incompetence. In defense, he claims that his opponents are causing instability in the country. He is just a regular guy,” blasts Boko, saying by granting interviews to international media Khama is exercising his rights.
Boko said ever since Masisi came to power there has been a lot of intolerance, heavy handedness on the part of the DIS with its excitable leader who hangs from windows of fast moving vehicles like in low budget movies. “Khama is exercising freedom of expression as granted by the Constitution at Section 12 and should not be blocked from enjoying such rights. I too should not be denied a right to campaign freely across the country. Khama is entitled to speak. I dont have to agree with him. I don’t have to like him. He has said a lot of negative things about me when he was still President but I can never deny him to express his views regardless whether we agree or not,” said Boko, adding that denying the opposition coverage on state media creates a democratic malfunction.
To buttress the point, he said earlier Democracy Research Project, a decade ago, found that over 60% of Batswana / electorates receive information through state media. Therefore, the BDP enjoyed wider reach than all opposition political parties combined. He said the Ombudsman has already found that the BDP enjoys 85% coverage on state media, leaving only 15% for all other parties, which is used predominantly on negative stories.
Boko urged the media to guard against being excited by ‘sensational nonsense’, giving ‘clowns’ a lot of airtime. “I don’t play in the radios, I focus. Our media should stop praising mediocrity. They should ask president Masisi hard questions, they should call him to account for public spending and some of his decisions, ,” he said.
For example, Boko said Masisi exhausted the budget for international travel in the first five months but, unlike his counterpart in South Africa, he cannot show the figures of the investment he has brought or the deals he has signed. He wastes public funds exploring the world. Is he an explorer, asks Boko rhetorically.
“We want change not imagination or exploration escapades. This is the joke that we have, expending public resources galavanting around the world while refusing to increase civil servants salaries only to announce his wife as the diamond ambassador. The process of choosing a diamonds ambassador should be transparent and open. What qualification and qualities does she posses? If being the wife to the president is the criteria let us know,” fired Boko, repeating that Masisi should protect his wife against social ridicule by being transparent about how she gets appointed to some positions, otherwise this is a clear demonstration of abuse of office to favour his wife.
Khama, Boko relations
Boko said there is no formal agreement in place about working with either Khama or the BPF. However, he said there is nothing wrong with philanthropy and therefore he will not stop Khama from going around donating soup and diphaphatha. “In fact in my constituency I may just encourage him to go on because Batswana value and hold socialisation in high regard. To them, coming together to break bread at a higher level is a potent gesture. Khama was able to appreciate the dynamic because it speaks to him and he expresses that through giving to the people. Condoning Khama is living and letting others live. For example, he was in my constituency over the weekend and ,met some councillors, they gave me a report and I said no problem. I could not be there because of other engagements elsewhere but I would have passed by and said “Hey brother, how are you!” Boko said, adding that he saved Khama when he advised him to declare the gifts he was given when he retired because now BURS has been set on him.
Boko said he has met Khama before. He said he paid him a courtesy call when he left the office of the president because he wanted to remind him if he remembers what he said soon after he was elected leader of Opposition (LOO). “The next encounter was when he invited me and showed me he was saddled with some legal issues and wished I represent him, but I advised him I can only recommend some lawyers. So, I will meet him if I feel that I have to or if such a need arises. We do engage from time to time. I cannot stop him if one of our candidates invites him to attend or maybe share soup with people. In the same vein I will also meet Masisi if need be,” Boko said, reiterating that they have not entered into any formal agreement with BPF.
“But we will avail ourselves if they wish to engage us over any proposition. We are not vindictive.I have personally been violated e.g. BURS disclosing confidential information about me. We are not about to met out vengeance. When I take over in October I will not revenge, I am not vindictive. We dont have any reaosn to be,” he said .
Unlike the ruling party whom he accused of sourcing funding from businessmen in return of government contracts, Boko bragged that he mobilises in international space where donors are strictly regulated.
“I do not condone tokenism. Businessmen should not come to try and sweet talk me and trick us into that. I have seen too much too young, we know how much they have given the BDP and for how long ,” he said.
On Botswana Unified Revenue Servic (BURS) persecution, said they should be asked to explain if anybody travelling in a private jet to Botswana has ever been asked to pay a portion/ percentage of the value of the aircraft they were using. He gave the example of Econet Wireless founder, Strive Masiyiwa, who recently came to Botswana in a private jet. He never paid a single thebe as demanded of the UDC and Boko, he said.
“This has never happened in this country. We are seeing all sorts of shocking things because this government. They even tried to block our manifesto. BURS employees have been recorded secretly saying they were demanding to be paid something,” claimed Boko.
Boko accused the Mokgweetsi Masisi administration of ‘weaponising’ BURS to sabotage and frustrate UDC, particularly its president. “But I will defeat them at every corner. They can never destabilise or distract me. If I have to come hard at them I will do so without losing focus. They cannot defeat me with these flimsy charges. The aircrafts will soon return to continue our campaigns. We want to reach Batswana across the country to give them hope and promise that from Day 01 we will start delivering,” said Boko.